Forget buying a Laptop or Notebook – I am getting a Netbook

Part of setting up my new small business home office, meant getting a new PC that I could use to write for this blog no matter where I was at home or on the road. Initially I started my search looking at standard laptops/notebooks from the usual makers Dell, HP and Apple but I soon discovered a new type of computing device that is gaining immense popularity and is much more suitable for mobile-wireless computing. It is called a Netbook, or mini-laptop, and you’ll be seeing more and more students, travellers and professionals using these really cool computers.

A Netbook is basically a small portable laptop/notebook computer designed for wireless communication and access to the Internet. They typically use a slimmed down Windows XP or Linux operating systems and are ultra light weight, typically weighing between 2 and 4 pounds (~ 1 Kg). Their LCD display’s range in size from 7 inches to over 12 inches. But what makes them stand out and the reason for their growing popularity, is that they are significantly cheaper (up to 50%) than regular laptops and notebooks, with prices ranging from $200 to $500.

They are definitely designed for users that work on/with the internet and pack a lot of power into their little shells. Nearly all models offer several USB ports (no CD/DVD drive), a webcam, LED backlit screens, integrated speakers, Wi-Fi and more, so have everything most users need. Battery life is good, though this is dependent on usage. Overall, though the trend towards netbook is growing rapidly and after coming to the market a year ago they are projected to grow to more than 20 million units by the end of 2009.

So which one is best?

As the netbook market grows, more and more players are coming into the market. This means that there are a number of choices out there and really most of them come with similar features. The key selection criteria for me were price (less than $400), battery life (6 hrs+), screen size (~ 10 inches), weight (less than 3 pounds) and memory (at least 1GB RAM and 150 GB disk) . Here are my preferred models so far: (all prices from Amazon as of post date; for more details on the each of the models below click the title link)

ASUS Eee PC 1000HE 10-Inch Netbook (~ $385)
Key features : 1.66 GHz Intel Atom Processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, 9.5 Hour Battery Life and weighs less than 3 pounds

Asus was one of the first players in the netbook market and its new models are gaining rave reviews, with a recent NY Times/Cnet review saying that the netbook was “a small, light, and sexy device aimed at the fashion-conscious netbook fan who puts portability slightly above performance…The glossy black finish, the gently tapering lid, and the wedge-shaped profile all contribute to an overall design that’s more aesthetically pleasing than that of rivals.” For the price and features, this laptop looks like a deal.

Acer Aspire One AOD150-1165 10.1-Inch Sapphire Blue Netbook (~ $330)
Key features : 1.6 GHz Intel Atom Processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, 6.5 Hour Battery Life and weighs around 3 pounds

Acer is fast becoming the new Dell of computing and this new netbook offering combines a solid model with a great price (cheapest one for the features I was looking for). From the pictures and what I say at my local Best Buy, this laptop looks very sleek in addition to having great graphics (webcam looked great). Unlike the Asus model though, this one does not have any built-in bluetooth capability and keyboard seems of lower quality.

Samsung NC10-14GB 10.2-Inch Netbook (~ $400)
Key features: 1.6 GHz Intel Atom Processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, 6.5 Hour battery life and weighs 2.8 pounds

This model has the biggest and best screen of the lot. The unit is ultra-compact and like most Netbooks its projected area is smaller then an 8.5″x11″ sheet of paper and the closed clamshell is 1″ thick (about the size of an A4 book). The only draw back relative to the other models was the price, which is higher for the 0.2 inches of extra screen space.

I also liked the HP Pavilion and MSI Wind netbooks, but they didn’t meet my price and weight criteria. Most netbooks offer a one year warranty, so there is no need to buy an extended warranty, because of the lower price trends and rapid evolution of these devices it will be more cost effective to buy a new one in a year. If you do want more computing power (for programming or gaming) and still need portable computing, it is almost cheaper to buy a powerful Dell or Acer desktop for your home and a netbook for travel, rather than buying a powerful and more expensive laptop or notebook.

I’ll be making my purchase early next month and am strongly leaning towards the popular Asus model, though also like the Samsung model based on my current work laptop. To me netbooks provide the all usefulness and functionality of a regular notebook/laptop, but at a much lower price.


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